By Mark Dance
Why is it so much harder to talk about our physical health than our spiritual or emotional health? Perhaps it’s because our motives aren’t always clear.
Do we take care of our bodies to look better, feel better, or to better honor God? Are these motives mutually exclusive?
There are many motivations for taking care of our bodies, but I’ll highlight my top three.
1. Love for Jesus
Full surrender includes loving God with our physical strength as well as our hearts, souls, and minds.
Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).
Our living sacrifice is not to be confused with Jesus’ bodily sacrifice for our salvation. Daily physical discipline is for our sanctification, not our salvation.
Laying our bodies on the altar means we’re surrendering ourselves completely, and in some measure, literally, to the Lord. Surrendering is a daily act involving our whole self, which includes our bodies.
Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
2. Love for Janet
My marriage is another motivator for me to stay physically healthy. When I said “I do” to Janet over three decades ago, was I giving her my heart, my soul, my mind, or my body? Yes! I surrendered everything to both Jesus and Janet.
On our wedding day, I publicly vowed to Janet that I’d love her to my dying breath. I realize I won’t be as physically healthy at the end of our marriage as when I first spoke my vows, but that’s OK because our temples are designed to be temporary.
Although I made no guarantees to her regarding my expiration date, it was assumed I wouldn’t short-change her or our kids by accelerating my exit with poor health decisions.
If I do grow ill and dependent on Janet in my later years, I’m confident she’ll love me in sickness and in health, but I have no intention of neglecting my body now to the effect that she or our children would have to pay the bill later.
3. Love for pastors
At this stage of my ministry, I primarily serve pastors, but I also still get to preach and serve churches.
Whenever a pastor walks into a room to lead or speak, his appearance makes a statement. I have less credibility talking about discipline if I’m not practicing it.
Chuck Norris jokes are funny because of the reputation he gained as a tough actor and stuntman, along with his legitimate martial arts credentials. Although he’s 25 years older than me, and three inches shorter, I have no aspirations of taking him on.
In his book, Against All Odds, Norris writes, “People often ask me, ‘How do you stay in such great shape?’ Truth is I must work at it, just like anyone else. I get up each morning and work out physically; Gena and I take time each day to read the Bible, pray, and exercise.”
Two disturbing trends pastors need to avoid are obesity and obsession. Obesity is an epidemic in America, and pastors need to lead by our example.
The other extreme is obsessing over our bodies. Pastors obsess by dropping fitness illustrations in their sermons or wearing shirts that are too small.
I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified … Run in such a way to win the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24,27).
When we wear out our bodies, we don’t get another one. Are you preparing now to finish strong later? Ask God to show you how you can love Him with all of your strength. Then, make whatever changes are necessary to get and stay healthy.
MARK DANCE (@markdance) speaks at churches, conferences, and retreats–often with his wife Janet. Mark has contributed to several books and offers weekly encouragement at MarkDance.net. He’s currently serving as director of pastoral development for the Oklahoma Baptist Convention.